The Complete Guide for Gym Beginners – Identify Gym Equipment with Names & Photos

Planning on joining a gym? It can be pretty easy to feel a little bit intimidated about setting foot in the gym for the first time - especially if you’ve never been to one before. Besides having to get your bearings in a brand new place, it’s also common for many new gym-goers to experience feelings of self-consciousness...and what do all those machines do?

If you’re in a similar position to what we’ve described above, then the most important thing to do is relax and not panic. We’re here to help! Below, you will find our ultimate gym guide that will talk you through everything you need to know about hitting the gym.

The Complete Guide for Gym Beginners with infographics

From all of the different gym equipment that you’ll find, beginner workout tips, as well as additional insights to make your gym experience as enjoyable and productive as possible - we’ve got you covered. Read on!

Strength and Fitness Equipment
  1. Pre-Gym Preparations:

The Complete Guide for Gym Beginners

As we’re sure you’re already well aware, the gym is a place that welcomes all, and is intended to be a positive environment for reaching new fitness goals, and for individuals to improve their confidence, health, self-esteem, and more via physical activity.

Nevertheless, before you sign up and become the newest member of your local gym, there are a few things that you will need to have prepared and gone through first. To help you gain a better understanding of what you might need to do, we’ve outlined some of the main things below:

  • Make Sure that you have Proper Workout Clothing:

First things first, you’re going to need to make sure that you have the proper clothing to ensure that you can really maximize your workouts while also ensuring that you stay safe.

The most important thing to note is that you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on brand new workout clothes, so long as you have comfortable clothing that doesn’t restrict you (such as a loose t-shirt and basic workout tights/joggers) and a pair of trainers that provide your feet with the proper support - then you’ll be good to go.

 However, if you would like a few recommendations on what workout clothing you might need, check out our recommendations below:

Basic Workout Essentials:

As we have already mentioned above, you do not need to break the bank on a whole new gym closet in order to work out! But, if you are interested in purchasing a few items to get you started, then check out the list below for inspiration:

  • Trainers: One of the most important pieces of gym equipment that you will need to ensure that you can exercise safely is with a pair of gym trainers. Depending on what type of exercise you are planning to do, you might need to find yourself purchasing a specific pair of trainers that are best-suited for the type of training you wish to do - such as running. However, if you are a beginner just getting started in the world of exercise, then all you will need to do is make sure that you have a reliable pair that will provide you with the necessary support to prevent injury. If you’re in need of a recommendation, then we strongly suggest checking out the Reebok Nano X1.
  • Fitness tops: If you’re currently in the market to buy a few pieces of workout clothing, then we strongly recommend that you opt for sweat-wicking fabric where possible, as this will help to ensure that you stay cool while you sweat! A great example of this is the DRI-Equip Long Sleeve Moisture Athletic Shirt, as well as the Under Armour Tech Short Sleeve T-Shirt.
  • Fitness bottoms: Another important part of exercising clothes are the bottoms - and you have plenty of choices to pick from when it comes to this. Most people like to wear gym leggings when they work out, while other people prefer to wear joggers or shorts. It all comes down to your personal preference and what makes you feel comfortable and confident. 
  • Essential extras: Besides making sure that you have all of the basic gym clothing that we have mentioned above, you will also need to make sure that you have water, headphones if you would like to listen to music while you work out, as well as a hat or headband if you want to keep sweat away from your face.
  • Initial health screening

So, after you’ve made sure that your workout bag is good to go and you’ve got your gym wardrobe ready - you’ll now be ready to hit your chosen gym and go through the membership process.

It’s important to keep in mind that, upon signing up for a gym membership, you will likely be asked a variety of questions that will help your gym gain an understanding of your general health and fitness.

These questions will be asked in order to ensure that your gym is able to keep you safe while you work out, while also even providing you with the chance for a personal trainer to help create a workout plan that will challenge you to become your best self, while also accommodating any existing medical issues you might have. So, with that being said, the questions that you might be asked during the initial screening could consist of the following:

  • Do you have any ongoing medical conditions?
  • Have you been recommended by a doctor and/or health professional to refrain from exercise?
  • Have you recently undergone any major operations in the past year?
  • Do you have a heart condition?

While you are being asked these questions during the initial pre-gym screening, it is extremely important that you make sure to answer all of the questions honestly. Your safety is very important, and disclosing any medical conditions you might have with your gym will ensure that you are able to work out safely. During this initial pre-gym screening, you will also have the opportunity to bring up any questions or concerns that you may have, too.

  • Induction

So, after you have completed the initial screening and you’ve got your new gym membership, you will then be required to take a gym induction. Gym inductions are provided by every gym to new members and usually lasts for about one hour, although sometimes they can be even shorter than this.

The main purpose of providing you with a gym induction is to provide you with a tour of the gym so that you know where everything is, talk you through various safety protocols and also ensure that you are aware of how to use all of the machines. 

However, to give you a flying start and ensure that you can enter your new gym with confidence, we’re now going to be talking you through all of the different gym machines that you will likely be using - which brings us to our next section of this guide. 

  1. Cardiovascular Gym Equipment 

In this section of our ultimate gym guide, we’re going to be talking you through all of the different cardiovascular equipment you’re likely going to come across in the gym.

As a side note, all of the equipment that we’re going to be talking you through are some of the most common pieces of equipment found in gyms all over the world, so if you happen to find a piece of equipment at your particular gym that confuses you - please make sure that you ask one of the gym assistants or personal trainers for help on how to correctly use it. 

  • Treadmill/running machine

cardiovascular gym equipment

One of the most common pieces of gym equipment that you’ll come across in the gym is the treadmill or running machine.

If you’re not already familiar with one, a treadmill is essentially a piece of equipment that allows you to run or walk and is a great choice for people who might not like running in an outdoor environment. As the treadmill is used for walking or running, it means that it will provide an all-over body workout that will target your lower body muscles, your abs, as well as your arms. 

One of the greatest benefits of a treadmill is the flexibility that it offers. As soon as you step up on your treadmill and hit the “on” switch, you will then be in full control of what you do thanks to the control pad that will be directly in front of you, including a screen filled with helpful information - including how many calories you are burning and how much distance you are covering.

Even though treadmills differ from model to model, all standard treadmills will typically come with the option to engage in a variety of built-in workouts (including interval), as well as the option to place your treadmill in an incline position if you wish to walk, jog or run with some extra resistance. 

The treadmill also comes with a variety of safety features to put your mind at ease while using one, including a large “stop” button typically positioned in the center for quick use, as well as a safety strap that you can connect to your top that will automatically turn off the treadmill if pulled. 

  • Rowing Machine

Rowing machine

Another common piece of gym equipment that we’re sure you’ll come across in your gym is the rowing machine… which can look a little scary to use if you’ve never seen one before!

To help you understand this awesome piece of equipment a little better, a rowing machine is essentially a machine that is specifically designed to emulate real, outdoor rowing in a boat - so it’s a fantastic exercise machine to use for those that wish to tone their arms! So much so, that the rowing machine is one of the only exercise machines that are able to provide an intense, cardio-focused arm workout. Even though the personal assistants at your gym will be able to provide you with instructions on how to use their specific rowing machines, they’re relatively simple to use and are all designed more or less in the same way. 

So, in order to use one, all you will usually need to do is adjust the seat, secure your feet in the adjustable footrests, and then select your resistance and workout option on the little screen positioned at the front of the rowing machine. After doing that, all you will need to do is begin rowing, ensuring that you are keeping your elbows nice and close to your body throughout each rowing motion for optimum performance. 

  • Elliptical Machine


No matter whether you’re a beginner at the gym or a longtime expert - one of the best pieces of equipment that you’ll likely find yourself using frequently is the elliptical machine! Even though it might look a little bit off-putting (which you can see from the image above) the elliptical machine is actually a relatively simple piece of equipment and is one of the recommended cardio for bad knees. It can also be used to achieve a full-body workout. 

In a nutshell, the elliptical machine will encourage you to move your body in the same way that you would if you were running, the only difference is that an elliptical machine will place no pressure on your joints (particularly the knees) in order to offer a low-impact alternative to outdoor running or using the treadmill. In addition to all of that, they are also extremely versatile pieces of equipment and can be used for either a cardio session or as a way to focus on toning your arms and legs thanks to the resistance dial. 

For this reason, the elliptical machine is a great choice for those days when you’re recovering from DOMS or simply want a low-impact exercise that isn’t going to be too high of an intensity. Nevertheless, even though the elliptical machine is an extremely versatile and easy-to-use machine, an elliptical machine can feel a little strange to use at first, so we recommend taking your time and starting off slow so that you do not lose balance. 

  • Stairclimber

What does a stairclimber look like

Looking to feel the burn? If so, you might want to make sure that you fit the stairclimber (which is otherwise known as the stair mill) into your upcoming gym workouts! As you can see from the image above, the staircase is essentially a piece of equipment that requires you to walk up its steps in order to emulate the way that you would normally walk up a flight of steps.

Besides being a low-impact exercise, the stair mill is one of the best methods to tone and strengthen your lower body (mainly the legs) while also encouraging you to engage your core for an awesome workout that you’re sure to feel the next day. 

While a stair climber is a common staple at gyms, it is also gaining popularity in home gyms due to its practicality. If you are planning to get one for yourself, we gathered the best stair climber machines for home use in this article to help you make a smart choice.

Also, check out our Jacobs Ladder X Review here, and find out why it is one of the most sought-after stair climbers on the market right now. 

  • Spin Bike


If you’re a beginner in the gym world, then one of the most popular classes that you might find yourself taking is a spin class, and that’s going to require you to be able to use a spin bike. A spin bike is a particular type of bike that is specifically designed for spinning only, which is why it contains a large disc in its design - which you can see from the images above. 

When in use, the disc inside the spinning bike’s frame will begin to turn, and you will be able to apply a variety of different levels of resistance to it as your spin ride goes on. For this reason, spinning bikes are essentially designed for high-impact, high-intensity workout sessions that emulate the feeling of cycling on a variety of different outdoor terrains. 

One of the best benefits of using a spin bike is the amount of versatility and control it offers you. Even though you’ll likely only find yourself using a spin bike during an instructor-led class, you will still have the ability to make your own judgment calls and set the resistance to levels that best suit you.

It should also be noted that all spin bikes will feature an automatic stop which you can implement at any point during the right, which will safely slow you down - especially when you are pushing yourself at cadence rates that push past 100.

Even though it will differ from spin bike to spin bike, most can be automatically stopped by firmly pushing down on the resistance dial, which is usually located just above the center of your two knees (while sitting on the bike).

It should also be noted that spin bikes can often require quite a bit of adjustment before you ride them, and they’re notoriously known for being relatively tricky to adjust.

So, if you do happen to decide to take a spin class and you’re unsure of how to safely make the adjustments to suit your body and height, then it’s very important that you make sure to ask the instructor or another gym-goer for assistance, as riding a spin bike with the wrong seat and handlebar adjustments can cause you to become injured, while also lowering the overall effectiveness and enjoyment of your spin class workouts.

  • Indoor recumbent Bike

What is an Indoor Recumbent Bike

Another type of exercise bike that you might find yourself wanting to use is a recumbent exercise bike. Unlike a spin bike, a recumbent exercise bike is designed to serve as a low-impact alternative to regular cycling, while still ensuring that you are able to enjoy a great leg workout.

Plus, thanks to the unique design of a recumbent exercise bike which can be seen from the image we have included above, a recumbent exercise bike is also able to offer an additional level of back support, so it’s a great option for people with back injuries, or for those who want a more comfortable cycling experience. 

In addition to offering a more low-impact alternative to high-intensity cycling exercises such as spinning, recumbent bikes can be used in a variety of different ways, including for cardio, interval training, and even just for a relaxed, steady cycle to get your legs moving. 

  1. Strength Training Gym Equipment

So, now that we have talked you through all of the main pieces of cardio equipment you are likely to encounter while in the gym, we are now going to be talking you through some of the main pieces of strength training equipment that you are likely to find yourself coming across.

As we have already mentioned above, heading over the weights area can be quite a scary experience if you’ve never done it before, so it’s important to make sure that you’re confident about how to use the equipment prior to doing it. 

As a side note, it’s important to keep in mind that, if you do feel a little bit self-conscious in the gym, that this is an entirely normal feeling that many gym-goers experience. Try to remember that everyone at the gym is focusing on their own workouts, and will almost always be happy to help if you get stuck on any pieces of equipment.

Of course, one of the biggest confidence boosts you can get is from being confident of how to use all of the different strength machines at your local gym -and that’s where we come in to help you out. Read on to learn about some of the most common pieces of strength equipment you’ll likely encounter at your gym! 

  • Hack Squat Machine

Hack Squat Machine

One of the most common pieces of strength training equipment is the hack squat machine, which you will be able to see in the image that we have provided above. It is essentially a piece of equipment that is designed to support you while you squat, and the machine places a focus on the thigh area - which is the main reason why people use them.

When in use, a hack squat machine will require you to position your back directly on its backboard for support, and then enter into a typical squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart and placed on the slightly elevated floor.

After doing this, you will then need to place your arms on either side of the handles (which will be located on either side of your neck) where you can then begin squatting, where you will find that the main area of your body that is being targeted is the thighs. However, even though the hack squat machine is primarily designed to help target the thigh area, it can also be used to develop all muscles in your legs, as well as the glutes.

  • Leg Extension Machine

Leg Extension Machine

Joining the gym in the hopes of toning your legs and making them more shapely? One piece of gym equipment that can help you to achieve that is the leg extension machine. One of the most common pieces of equipment in any gym, the leg extension machine features a chair and extended bar that is used to help target the quad area.

Armed with one of these strength training machines, you will be able to isolate your quad muscles and work on developing them at a rate that fits you best, as you will be free to set the weight to a level that suits you best.

As a side note, just like with other pieces of strength training equipment, it’s important to make sure that you are using the leg extension machine correctly. This will mean that you will need to make sure that you have adjusted your leg extension machine properly in accordance with your height, otherwise, you might cause yourself to become injured or strained while using it.

If you’re ever unsure about how to properly use or adjust the leg extension machines that are in your particular gym, then we strongly recommend that you ask a gym worker for some assistance, as the last thing that you want to be doing is using it incorrectly. 

  • Pulldown Machine

Pulldown Machine

Even if you’ve never set foot in a gym before, we’re sure that you’ve already seen a lat pulldown machine! Perhaps one of the most commonly used strength training machines in the world, the lat pulldown is a type of strength training machine that specifically focuses on the back and arm areas - hence its name!

If you aren’t overly familiar with the lat machine, as you can see from the picture above, it is quite a unique piece of gym equipment that operates by pulling a handlebar directly above the head that is connected to a weight resistance. When used properly and with adequate resistance, a weight lat gym machine will be able to target all of the muscles in your back (especially the outer back muscles) while also targeting the arm muscles, too.

  • Pec Deck Machine

Pec Deck Machine

Suitable for both men and women, another fantastic piece of equipment that you can utilize at your local gym is something known as the pec deck machine!

As you might have already guessed from the name, pec deck machines are specifically designed to help target the chest (or pec) muscles in order to help tone and define them - and it is a machine that both men and women can benefit from. The pec deck machine can be spotted by the two bars that are positioned on either side of the chair attached to the frame, and it can be used in various ways to help tone the pec area.

  • Glute Blaster Machine

Glute Blaster Machine

Regardless of whether you want to push yourself to try new equipment or you want a targeted workout that will focus on your glutes, the glute blaster (which is otherwise known as the butt blaster) is an extremely popular piece of gym equipment that can be used to help tone and firm the glutes area.

As you can see from the image above, the glute blaster will require you to get on your hands and knees to use the machine, but don’t let that put you off because the glute blaster is relatively simple to use and suitable for beginners.

The idea of the glute blaster is to provide a resistance level that is higher than the weight of your leg in order to contract the glute muscles and help to tone, firm, and make the area appear more shapely. 

As a side note, even though the glute blaster is an extremely effective way to achieve a targeted workout to the glute area, it is important to keep in mind that the risk of injury associated with this particular machine is higher than others - and the main reason for this comes down to the position you will need to place your body in to use it.

So, with that being said, if you do intend on using the glute blaster machine you should ensure that you keep your back nice and straight so that you do not put any undue pressure on the lumbar area of your spine. If you do happen to arch your back while using this machine, then you will be placing undue stress on this area of your back, and in turn, potentially causing you to develop a strain or injury.

For this reason, we strongly recommend that you make sure to ask your personal trainer or a gym worker for assistance on how to properly use the glue machines in our gym, as the last thing you want to do is use this machine incorrectly and cause yourself to experience a strain.

  1. Free Weights

Alongside strength training machines, another popular section of the gym you’ll likely find yourself in at some point is the free weights section. For many people, the free weights section of the gym is an area that they avoid due to being unsure of what all the different weights can be used for - but we’re here to help. Read on for some guidance on how to identify the different types of weights typically used in the free weights section:

  • Dumbbells


The first most common type of weight that you’ll see in the free weights section of your gym is dumbbells. Perfect for all types of strength training, dumbbells can be used in a variety of different ways (including individually or even in a pair) and can be used for all sorts of isolation exercises, including:

  • Shoulders
  • Arms
  • Chest
  • Abs

However, besides being ideal for muscle isolation exercises, dumbbells also double-up as awesome weights suitable for compound exercises, including bench press, shoulder press, sit-ups, squats, lunges, and plenty of other exercises.

So, if you’ve never been to the free weights section in your gym before and you’d like to give it a shot next time you head there for a workout, why don’t you take some dumbbells over to a mat that isn’t in use and perform some of your favorite exercises there?

  • Barbells

Barbells in the gym

So, even though dumbbells form an essential part of any workout and are perfect for targeted workouts and toning, barbells are a fantastic choice for those who want to work on their general strength. 

As you can see from the picture that we provided above, barbells are the weights that feature the long bar that connects two weights on either side of the bar - hence the name! In some instances, you will find yourself coming across fixed weight barbells, which means that the weight of the barbell cannot be adjusted. However, there are also some barbells that come with the option to customize the weight, which is far more common and most typically seen in public gyms. 

There also are different types of weightlifting bars and barbells that every lifter needs to know to help them choose which one is best suited for their needs. 

Just like we mentioned above, barbells are mainly used for all types of different strength training movements, including powerlifting, bodybuilding, weightlifting, and more. However, a barbell can also simply be used as a way to tone and shape your body, as you can use it to perform a variety of different exercises including lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, and more.

  • Kettlebells


Another super popular and versatile weight that you’ll likely find in your gym’s free weight area is the kettlebell. As you can see from the picture above, these types of weights feature a rounded design with a handle across the top so that it can be lifted up and used. What’s more, they come in fixed weight formats of between 2.5 to 100 pounds - sometimes even more than that. 

If you’re interested in trying out a kettlebell, then we’re sure you’ll be pleased to know that it is one of the best weights for achieving a full-body workout, and can be used in ways that other weights could never be thanks to its unique design.

If you’ve never tried a kettlebell before and you’d like to incorporate one into your next workout, then you can use it to do a one-arm press (making sure that you’re alternating between arms each set) , a chest swing, around the leg passes and much more. It’s a fantastic weight for working out the abs, lower back, shoulders, arms, and legs. 

  • Medicine Balls


Last but certainly not least, another common weight that you’re likely going to come across in your gym’s free weight section is a medicine ball. As you might have already guessed, medicine balls are essentially weighted balls that are specifically designed for all kinds of different strength training.

Weighing anywhere from between 1.5 to 30 pounds, medicine balls can be used for slam movements, wall exercises, sit-up exercises, waist crunching exercises, arm exercises, and just about anything else that you can think of.

They are also one of the only types of weight that can be used in a pair with someone else - so grab a gym buddy and get exercising with a medicine ball together! One of the most popular pair exercises that incorporates a medicine ball is the sit and reach exercise - which consists of your partner passing you a medicine ball each time you do a sit-up so that you can really work your abs while also working your arms!

Final Words

So, there we have it! You’ve made it to the end of our ultimate guide to gym equipment. After reading through everything, we hope that you now have a far better understanding of the different types of gym equipment that you’re likely to come across and use when you go to your local gym.

In addition to that, we also hope that you have a better idea of the preparatory steps you will need to carry out in order to prepare for your very first visit. If you ever find yourself confused on how to correctly use a piece of equipment, all you need to do is head over to a nearby personal trainer or gym assistant, and we’re sure they will be more than happy to help and show you how to use it to get the most out of your workout and general gym experience.

Remember not to push yourself too hard too quickly and to give your body enough time to recover after every workout. Check out our guide on how many exercises per workout you should in accordance to your level and goals. 

While you’re here, why don’t you give this page a bookmark? That way, if you ever wish to come back and refresh your knowledge on the different types of equipment commonly used in a gym, you will know exactly where to find us. Thank you for reading, and happy gymming!

Kevin Harris